A number of years ago, I put Rilke's "The Panther" on my web site. It seems that "The Panther" is a very popular subject for translation, because since then I have received quite a few e-mails containing other translations of the poem (some of those e-mails even berating the translation I use and suggesting another). Translating "Der Panther" appears to be a real cottage industry these days! I have read each of those translations, and still prefer the one I originally posted. I have decided, however, to post alternate translations of the poem so that others can decide for themselves which is the best. This is the page where I will post the alternate translations. For my favorite translation, and for interpretations of the poem by myself and others, please go to THIS PAGE. If you have a translation that you prefer that is not displayed here, please send it to me and I will post it. Please make sure you tell me who the translator is.
For a page on translating Rilke (concepts and mechanics), check out this from C. John Holcombe on textetc.com at http://www.textetc.com/workshop/wt-rilke-1.html
Translation by Susanne Fiessler
His gaze has from the passing by of bars
become so numb that it holds nothing more.
He feels as if there were a thousand bars
and beyond those thousand bars no world.
The sinuous gait of strong and supple strides
that turns the tightest, ever smallest round
is like a dance of strength around a centre
in which benumbed a greater will is bound.
Just sometimes quietly his pupils' veil
slides open. - Then a view can enter,
goes through the flexing silence of his limbs –
and ceases, deep inside his heart, to be.
Translation by Mov Faltin, 2018
His gaze, grown all too weary by the passing
His grace- and powrful prowlings smoothly fiddle
His glazen pupil is to slide its curtain
This translation (and possibly a newer version of it), as well as other Rilke related things, can be found on Mov Faltin's website: https://www.movfaltin.de/schrieb/the-panther.
Changes and potential points of criticism, as far as I can see:
(1) [L.1] I made the bars metal bars (there is more ambiguity with the term "bars" in English than there is with German "Stäbe"
(2) [L.2] The broadest possible literal translations of "hält" (i.e., "hold" or even "bear") have been exchanged for "sustain", which is a bit narrower in meaning (but, as "hält" is quite unusual to be used here in terms of semantics, it requires interpretation as well)
(3) [L.3] The "bars amassing" part fits in terms of form (rhythm and rhyme as with "Stäbe gäbe"), but at the expense of a more literal reading. It might sound a bit odd.
(4) [L.4] "Welt" ("world") has been altered to be "terrain".
(5) [L.5] I changed "The" ("Der") to "His" in order to have yet another element of rhyme (see below).
(6) [L.5-5] The worst change I made, I think, is the complete invention of "fiddle away". This may be considered too much of an interpretation.
(7) [L.6] Plus, I inserted hyphens so that there is a slight ambiguity with "away, around" to "a way, a round". Any such inclusion of new elements goes beyond rigid translation of poetry, certainly.
(8) [L.9] Now -- this is the second major potentially faulty addition I included: In order to get the beginnings of each stanza rhyming (well, sort of) and almost identical ("His gaze" - "His graceful" - "His glazen"), I included "His glazen" where there is no such content in German. It fits with terms referring to eyes though, and I thought it would be a nice addition -- but it destroys the original image reminding of shutter exposure. And, as already mentioned, I left the path of narrow translation here.
(9) [L.11] It gets a bit problematic as far as the metre is concerned here ("pass tense limbs" does not include an unstressed syllable).
(10) [L.12] Finally, I applied some ambiguity trick with "Imagin'" so no one can blame me for sure for abandoning metrical structure proper. Of course, "image" or "picture" would be closer to Rilke, but... well: They would not fit. In addition, the ending is far too abrupt and not sufficiently precise for my personal taste.
"Literal" translation by Jan Hauenstein, 2018 (NOTE: While corresponding with Jan Hauenstein, whose translation of The Panther is below, I mentioned that it would be interesting to read a literal translation of the poem from German to English, without the translator trying to maintain the rhythm or other characterisitics of the original German. To my surprise, he obliged by providing one. I thought others might find it interesting as well, so it is presented below.)
His gaze, from the passing of the bars,
Has grown so weary, it cannot hold anything anymore.
He feels as if there were a thousand bars,
And behind the thousand bars no world.
The soft tread of supple strong steps
That turns in the tiniest of circles
Is like a dance of strength around a center
Wherein a mighty will stands, paralyzed.
Only at times the curtain of the pupil
Slides up, without a sound - . Then a picture enters,
Goes through the limbs tense stillness,
And in the heart ceases to be.
Translation by Jan Hauenstein, Goettingen, 07 September 2017 http://www.janhauenstein.com
And, from the constant passing of the bars, his gaze
Has grown so weary, there´s no image it can see.
To him, a thousand bars pass in a haze -
Behind the thousand bars the world has ceased to be.
Around the tiniest of circles pace
His steps, his powerful soft strides,
They´re like a dance of strength around a place
Wherein a mighty will stands, paralyzed.
Only at times the curtain of the pupils slides
Up, quietly. - A picture enters then,
And through the stillness of tense limbs it glides -
And in the heart is quickly lost again.
(NOTE: Since sending his translation to me, he has put the poem to music. You can here it at the following link: https://www.reverbnation.com/janhauenstein/song/28711408-the-panther)
Translation by Tom Colitt
His gaze, from passing all those bars,
Has grown so weary, that it holds no more.
It seems as though a thousand bars surround him
and past a thousand bars, no world in store.
The quiet gait of smooth, yet mighty strides,
that turns in circles, oh so small,
is like a dance of strength around a center.
There stands his will, no longer tall.
At times, the curtain of the pupil lifts, without a sound,
allows an image through the mist,
goes through the silent tension of his limbs
And in his heart, it ceases to exist…
Translation by Auvi Chakder
This is a revised translation, replacing an earlier version found on this site.
His gaze, from passing on the bars around him,
has grown so weary, no more can it bear.
It seems as if a thousand bars surround him.
Beyond those thousand bars, there is nowhere.
The supple turnout of his sturdy treading
within the smallest circle pattern lands.
This dance of strength is 'round a center heading,
in which his mighty will, gone numb, now stands.
Just sometimes lift the curtains of his seeing.
Up, soundlessly – an image then goes in,
And passes through his tense and silent being,
reaches the heart, and dies within.
Translation by Christopher Laue
(Translator's comments: I have read many 'translations' of 'The Panther' in English, and some are better than others.
For the most part it is evident that all the translators enjoy poetry and wish to communicate and share their enjoyment and excitement with others. This is of course highly commendable and most encouraging. However, having said this, it is important to remember that there is a clear distinction between translation and interpretation, and any rendering of this poem in English, or in any other tongue, places it in the vast range of poetic construction, which ranges between a personal emotional appeal and appreciation on the one hand, and a critical academic and factual evaluation and assessment on the other.
I have tried to maintain simple accuracy and brevity in my own translation presented here:)
His gaze from passing by the bars
Is so exhausted, he can retain no more.
To him it is as if there were a thousand bars
And past those thousand bars no world exists.
The soft pace of smooth powerful strides
Which turn about in tiniest of circles
Are like a dance of great strength around a center
In which a mighty will stands dazed.
Only sometimes the veil over the pupils
Opens silently – and then an image enters,
Passes through the gliding, tense stillness -
And ceases completely in the heart.
Translation by Laura & Mark Olival-Bartley
His gaze upon the ever-moving bar
has grown so tired it holds nothing more
as if a thousand bars, all similar,
have with a thousand turned the world to lore.
The majestic walk the padded steps take
in an infinitesimal circle
is like a dance of strength around a stake
and works upon his formidable will.
Every once in a while, the curtain
of his pupil is drawn: The imagery
goes through the charged stillness his limbs are in
and, reaching the heart, ceases to be.
Translation by Mary Mills
From the passing bars, his vision has become
so exhausted that now it cannot behold
a thing. As if behind a thousand bars, from
which there would not be a world to unfold.
The apparent soft gait of his supple stance,
that in ever-decreasing circles turns
around a center like a powerful dance,
where, desensitized, a forceful will yearns.
Briefly, the curtain of his pupil lifts
without a sound--an image enters, then
travels through his limbs into a tense quiet,
and, reaching his heart, meets its end.
Translation by Howard Engelskirchen
His gaze is so tired from overreaching iron bars,
It holds no more. For him it’s as if there were
A thousand thousand bars and behind
Those thousand no world.
The supple pacing muscled steps
Which narrow to an ever smaller ring
Are like a dance of power to a midpoint
Where a great will stands numbed.
Yet at times, all noiseless, the pupil
Seems unveiled – an image enters, shudders
Through tensed stillness in the limbs –
And in the heart ends, extinguished.
Translation by Gabriele Scheler
His gaze, made tired from the passing of the bars, >
cannot be held by anything.
It seems to him, as if there were a thousand bars,
as if behind the thousand bars there were no world.
The soft gait of smoothly powerful strides,
that turn within the smallest circle possible,
is like a dance of force around a center,
which holds the strongest will, benumbed.
Rarely the curtain of his pupils shifts,
and soundlessly a picture moves inside,
moves through the silent tenseness of his limbs,
to cease within the chambers of his heart.
Translation by Steven Rendall
His gaze has grown weary of sweeping the bars
And has ceased to hold anything at all.
For him it's as though there were a thousand bars
And behind those thousand bars no world.
The lithe pacing on strong, padded paws
Turning in the tiniest of circles
Is like a dance of power round a center
In which a great benumbed will stands.
Only the pupil's curtain sometimes rises
Soundlessly. Then an image enters,
Traverses the tensed stillness of the limbs,
And in the heart comes to its end.
Translation by Tommy Stroller
Pacing past these bars has made
his gaze so weary, now nothing holds him
outside this countless passing
and beyond them there is nothing.
His lithe strong steps in steady rhythm
rotate in ever smaller circles,
as if held by a centre his numbed will
cannot free itself from.
Only sometimes does the shutter
on his pupils slide open, and an image
darts inside and down some long hidden nerve-way
to finally flutter then die in his heart.
Translation by George Papadimitropoulos, from his blog: http://bishopwulfila.blogspot.com
His gaze, from pacing behind the bars that stand before him
has grown so exhausted that there's nothing it can hold
It seems to him as if there are a thousand bars before him
and beyond these thousand bars no world.
The soft footfalls, the supple muscular canter
that goes about in ever-smaller turns
is like a dance of power around a fixed center
in which, like dazed, a greater spirit burns.
And only at times the curtain that obscures the sight
silently parts -. Right then an image shoots through the eye
goes through the limbs - then strained quiet -
straight to the heart only for it to die.
(1) "fixed" in verse 2, line 3 to be read fix-ed and not fix'd
(2) "quiet" verse 3 line 3, noun and not adjective.
(3) Stanza 3 awkward in form and metre but actually sounds good and retains cadence.
His gaze has, from the passing of the bars,
gotten so tired that it holds nothing more.
To him it is, as if there were a thousand bars
And behind a thousand bars no world.
The soft stride of smooth strong steps,
that spins round in the tiniest circle,
is like a dance of strength around a center,
in which, numbly, a great will stands.
Only sometimes the curtain of the pupil
rises silently. — Then an image enters,
goes through the limbs’ tense silence —
and in the heart ceases to exist.
Note from the translator: I appreciate your web site and would like to offer yet another translation of Rilke's "The Panther" for you to consider for inclusion on the page reserved for such. This translation seeks to capture the deep spirit of what Rilke saw and felt that day at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, rather than the translation of his precise words in the poem.
His gaze, blunted
by the unnumbered procession
of iron bars, uncounted
as his softly padded steps.
Smooth motion of blood and sinew
turning in its own, small circle
prescribed by bars and walls
...and skin, confined.
Suddenly, without warning,
a flash of light and image
pierces the caged brain,
and passing through its beating heart
to stillness finds its way.
From seeing only bars, his seeing is exhausted.
It holds nothing, nothing more.
To him, the world is bars,
100,000 bars, and behind the bars, nothing.
The lithe swinging of his rhythmic, easy stride
circles an inner hub – a dance of energy,
‘round a central point.
Inside, a gigantic Will stands stunned and numb.
Only, at times, the curtains rise.
Silently, a vision enters,
slips though the focused silence of his shoulders,
reaches his heart,
Translated by Ronnie Pontiac
His sight, passing by the bars,
exhausted, sees nothing else.
For him there are a thousand bars,
a thousand bars, and beyond them no world.
His limber lope and powerful pace
ever turning in the smallest circle
dance strength around a center
where a great will stands numb.
Sometimes the veil of his pupil parts
silently an image goes in
past the tense poise of still limbs
only to die in his heart.
Translated by Doug Sutton
His glance has become so weary from pacing
Along the bars that it can hold no more.
It seems like a thousand bars encasing
Him, and beyond the thousand bars, no world.
The soft tread of steps strong and supple
Does in the tiniest of circles revolve,
It is like of dance of force around a middle,
In which, benumbed, there stands a great resolve.
Only sometimes like a curtain does the pupil
Silently slide open - then an image gains entry,
passes through members tensely still -
and in the heart, ceases to be.
Translated by Leonard Cottrell
The weary passage of these bars
has made his gaze an empty stare:
as if the bars were all there are
and that behind them nothing's there.
Strong and supple strides around
and back to their beginning come.
A swirling play of power surrounds
a noble will that stands there numb.
Just at times the curtain parts
quietly inside his eyes.
Along a nerve, awareness darts -
arriving in his heart, it dies.
Translated by J.B. Leishman
His gaze those bars keep passing is so misted
with tiredness, it can take in nothing more.
He feels as though a thousand bars existed,
and no more world beyond them than before.
Those supply-powerful paddings, turning there
in the tiniest of circles, well might be
the dance of forces round a center where
some mighty will stands paralyticly.
Just now and then the pupil’s noiseless shutter
is lifted -- then an image will indart,
down through the limbs’ intensive stillness flutter
and end its being in the heart.
Translated by Gerald Duffy
The pacing past the bars, the steady stare
A tiredness grown so nothing holds him here
Of a thousand iron bars he seems aware
A thousand bars, no world beyond this sphere.
With supple strength, with soft and gentle mode
He turns in smallest circles about his flank
It’s like a dance of power around a node
His great volition standing stunned and blank.
Sometimes his eyelids rise so he can sense
A picture enter in the moment’s part
Descend through limbs of sinew, silent, tense
And thinning, fading, cease within his heart.
September 15, 2006
Translated by Maren Mudaly
His gaze is from the passing of the bars
grown so tired that nothing it can hold
to him it’s as if there’s bars like stars
and behind the bars no life to mold
His soft stride, smooth strong paws lie
placed in smallest circles as if bond by chains
is like a dance of strength around a bull’s eye
where tranquilized a grand will remains
Only sometimes lifts the veil over the eye’s lens
silently out of way – Then an image passes through
rushes through the nerves alerted waiting sense
dies in the heart for there’s nothing possible to do
Translation by Winslow Shea
His gaze, so worn with passing through the bars,
holds nothing now, not even its own stare.
There is, it seems to him, a thousand bars,
and past the thousand bars, no world out there.
The soft padding of his strong paws on the floor,
Revolving in the smallest ring of all,
is like a dance of power round a core
in which a mighty will stands stunned, in stall.
Sometimes the shutter of his pupil parts
without a sound — and then an image will
slip through the silent tension of the limbs
until, stopped in the heart, it’s still.
Translation by A. S. Kline, copyright 2004
His gaze is so wearied from the bars
Passing by, that it can hold no more.
It’s as if a thousand bars were given him:
And behind the thousand bars, no world.
The soft pace of his powerful, supple stride,
That draws him round in tightened circles,
Is like the dance of force about a centre,
In which a greater will stands paralysed.
Only, at times, the curtain of his pupils
Silently rises – Then an image enters,
Rushes through his tense, arrested limbs,
And echoing, inside his heart, is gone.
Translated by Klaus J. Peter
Its gaze grown tired from passing
of the bars can't hold a thing.
It feels as if there were a thousand bars
and behind these bars no world.
The soft stride of smooth strong steps
rotates in smallest circles
is like a dance of power around a mid
in which benumbed a great will rests.
Only sometimes the curtain of the pupil
raises silently and lets an image enter
passes through the silence of his tense limbs
and in his heart it seizes to exist.
Translated by Edward Snow
His gaze has from the pasing of the bars
grown so tired, that it holds nothing anymore.
It seems to him there are a thousand bars
and behind a thousand bars no world.
The supple pace of powerful soft strides,
turning in the very smallest circle,
is like a dance of strength around a center
in which a great will stands numbed.
Only sometimes the curtain of the pupils
soundlessly slides up --. Then an image enters,
glides through the limbs' taut stillness,
dives into the heart and dies.
Translated by Robert Spielman
His gaze, from the constantly passing bars,
Has grown so weary that it can hold no more.
To him it is as if there are a thousand bars,
And beyond those thousand bars, no world.
The gentle slink of his powerful, supple stride,
Turning in on itself in ever-smaller circles,
Is as a ritual dance of strength around a center
In which a great will stands paralyzed.
Occasionally the curtain of his pupils
Will silently rise, admitting an image.
Passing through the tense stillness of his limbs,
It plunges into his heart and is no more.
Translated by A.L. Breitling
His concept is overwhelmed by bars
of so much constancy that ennui embraces emptiness.
For him there are a thousand bars,
and beyond the thousand bars, oblivion.
His gait belies a crueler walk of prisoned spirit,
pacing in a gyre the cross of sacrifice;
it is a dance which finds it axis at the center
of a greater loss of will, not recalcitrance.
Only incidentally does the nictitation fail;
and in that moment, with victim seen,
he goes again to cunning stillness;
then from his being - to heart - to gone.
Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming
His tired gaze--from passing endless bars--
has turned into a vacant stare which nothing holds.
To him there seem to be a thousand bars,
and out beyond these bars exists no world.
His supple gait, the smoothness of strong strides
that gently turn in ever smaller circles
perform a dance of strength, centered deep within
a will, stunned, but untamed, indomitable.
But sometimes the curtains of his eyelids part,
the pupils of his eyes dilate as images
of past encounters enter while through his limbs
a tension strains in silence
only to cease to be, to die within his heart.
Translation by Peter J. Seng
His Vision from the Passing by of bars
Has grown so tired that it holds nothing more.
It seems to him there are a thousand bars,
And out beyond those thousand bars no world.
His supple lope and flexibly strong strides,
That always in the smallest circle turn,
Are like a dance of strength around a middle
In which, benumbed, a great will stands.
Just sometimes, does the veil upon his eye
Silently rise; then goes an image in,
Goes through the nervous poise of his still limbs,
And ceases, in his heart, to be.
The following translation is by Guntram Deichsel:
His eyes became from passing bars
so weary, that they hold no sight.
He feels there were a thousand bars,
behind the thousand bars no light.
The soft gait of the lithe strong pace
in cramped circles on a narrow spot
is like a dance of force around a place
in which a dazed great will does moan its lot.
At times, the curtain of his vision
Silently slides aside -. An image enters then,
goes through the members' quiet tension,
ceasing existence deep in his heart's den.
English ©: Guntram Deichsel, Biberach on the Riss, Germany
Nov1997 / re-done Mar 1999
Guntram is a mathematician and physicsist by education with a Ph.D. in informatics. He had been lecturing biomathematics in the academic setting until he became a biometrician in the pharmaceutical industry where he is involved in the clinical development of new drugs, presently in cancer research. Guntram translates poems as a way to hone his skills in writing technical reports in English. You can find his translation of Rilke's Autumn Day HERE. You can also find a poem that Guntram wrote himself HERE.
The following translation is by Bart Odom:
From going through the bars, his gaze has become so exhausted
that it holds nothing anymore.
To him it is as if there are a thousand bars,
and beyond the thousand bars, no world.
The easy swinging of that lithe, potent stride,
which turns in on itself in ever-smaller circles,
is like a dance of power around a center
in which a great will stands benumbed.
Only at times the curtain of the pupils
rises silently--then an image goes in,
goes though the tightened stillness of the limbs,
enters the heart and is no more.
The following translation is by Stephen Mitchell:
His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold anything else.
It seems to him there are a thousand bars;
and behind the bars, no world.
As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.
Only at times, the curtain of the pupils lifts, quietly--.
An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.
The following translation is by Tatyana Dali:
A thousand bars surround and charm him there,
Flash on, obscure, and hide the world beyond.
His gaze grown worn to just a bare stare,
So weary, it no longer holds a bond.
Soft paws, strong stride, his muscles svelte and supple,
the circles tighten, taut steps like a drill.
At center cage - a dance of strength. Uncoupled,
as in a trance, there stands a mighty will.
Sometimes, eye curtain lifts, the eye is willing,
the pupil dilates and an image rushes in.
It travels throughout the taunted body's stillness
to thrill the heart and die within.
The following translation is by Walter Arndt:
His gaze has been so worn by the procession
Of bars that it no longer makes a bond.
Around, a thousand bars seem to be flashing,
And in their flashing show no world beyond.
The lissom steps which round out and re-enter
That tightest circuit of their turning drill
Are like a dance of strength about a center
Wherein there stands benumbed a mighty will.
Only from time to time the pupil's shutter
Will draw apart: an image enters then,
To travel through the tautened body's utter
Stillness--and in the heart to end.
The following translation is by C.F. MacIntyre:
His sight from ever gazing through the bars
has grown so blunt that it sees nothing more.
It seems to him that thousands of bars are
before him, and behind them nothing merely.
The easy motion of his supple stride,
which turns about the very smallest circle,
is like a dance of strength about a center
in which a mighty will stands stupefied.
Only sometimes when the pupil's film
soundlessly opens ....then one image fills
and glides through the quiet tension of the limbs
into the heart and ceases and is still.